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Stay Warm, Read a Book. Winter Reading Recommendations

Winter is here, and it brought freezing temperatures along for the ride. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been huddled in your house, wearing a beanie, sweatpants and fuzzy socks while shooting dirty looks at the thermostat that says it’s warm inside, but it isn’t warm enough for you.

Then again, I work from home, so maybe you’re actually putting on pants and joining society each day.

But when you do have free time, may I make a suggestion? Don’t run errands. Don’t go to the mall. Groceries? Have them delivered. Mankind was not made to survive in this weather, and I feel like I’m duty-bound to tell you how best to survive these cold months.

Put on those sweatpants. Find a really comfortable corner of the couch. Grab a mug filled with something hot. Then, spend a few hours with a really good book. Need suggestions? See my list of reads that you don’t want to miss, below.

Young Adult Fiction

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This breakout debut novel is one of the best books I read in 2017. It manages to be funny, engaging, and painful all at once, and examines such sensitive topics as race, the media, and police violence. Even if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I highly recommend picking it up.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really happened that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon. 

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive. These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

Adult Fiction

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This novel by New York Times best-selling author Celeste Ng won Goodreads 2017 Best Fiction of the year. In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threaten to upend this carefully ordered community.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster or heartbreak.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure–a silent companion–that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect–much like the silent companions themselves.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

A prequel to the beloved book and movie, Practical Magic. For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.

Hundreds of years later, in New York City on the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.

From the start, Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City, each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.

The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain?

Non-Fiction

Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is a Grammy Award-nominated American humorist and radio contributor, and his work is some of my favorite non-fiction. Honest, self-deprecating, hilarious, his essays are based on the daily observations he kept in his diary, and Theft by Finding are those entries.

For forty years, David Sedaris has kept a diary in which he records everything that captures his attention-overheard comments, salacious gossip, soap opera plot twists, secrets confided by total strangers. These observations are the source code for his finest work, and through them he has honed his cunning, surprising sentences.

Written with a sharp eye and ear for the bizarre, the beautiful, and the uncomfortable, and with a generosity of spirit that even a misanthropic sense of humor can’t fully disguise, Theft By Finding proves that Sedaris is one of our great modern observers. It’s a potent reminder that when you’re as perceptive and curious as Sedaris, there’s no such thing as a boring day.

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

If you made New Year’s resolutions for 2018 and want to learn how to stick to them, read this book. The science behind habits and how they affect our daily lives (even when we don’t realize it) gives you a real understanding of how you can make life changes permanent.

In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation. 

Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker, beloved author, Big Sister Emeritus, and Chief BFF, offers another round of hilarious tales, frank honesty, and hope for the woman who has forgotten her moxie. Whether discussing the grapple with change (“Everyone, be into this thing I’m into! Except when I’m not. Then everyone be cool.”) or the time she drove to the wrong city for a fourth-grade field trip (“Why are we in San Antonio?”), Jen parlays her own triumphs and tragedies into a sigh of relief for all normal, fierce women everywhere who, like her, sometimes hide in the car eating crackers but also want to get back up and get back out, to live undaunted “in the moment” no matter what the moments hold.

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Ella Morton, Dylan Thuras

Inspiring equal parts wonder and wanderlust, Atlas Obscura celebrates over 600 of the strangest and most curious places in the world. Atlas Obscura revels in the weird, the unexpected, the overlooked, the hidden, and the mysterious. Every page expands our sense of how strange and marvelous the world really is. And with its compelling descriptions, hundreds of photographs, surprising charts, maps for every region of the world, it is a book you can open anywhere.

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

*Note: Italicized book descriptions are from Goodreads.com.